Lankayan Island, Jewel of the Sulu Sea
Beautiful Lankayan Island, which is also known as the Jewel of the Sulu Sea, is located to the north of the town of Sandakan in Sabah, Malaysia. It also lies inside the Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area and is known for its amazing scuba diving opportunities and diverse snorkeling sites. You can even see black tip reef sharks in season and the waters around the island are known for being crystal clear.
To date though, there is only one resort located on this serene and isolated island and it is aptly named Lankayan Island Dive Resort. As an accommodation, it is not only committed to giving the utmost comfort to its guests but it is also committed to environmentally-conscious practices to preserve the surrounding protected national marine park.
For a start, it helps to note that the sand around this island is made up of fine powdery sand, and a stroll around Lankayan Island only takes around 30 minutes as you enjoy the flora and fauna of this scenic spot.
FACT: This resort is open all year round and you can visit throughout the year! Below are just some of the many amazing things that you can do here.
» Green and Hawksbill Turtle Hatchery «
The island has a turtle hatchery and you can find both green and hawksbill turtles here, the latter of which are extremely rare. The turtles are known to come ashore under the cover of darkness and you can watch as they lay their eggs in the sand. When the turtles hatch, you can release them back into the ocean, also at night.
When you visit the hatchery you can also adopt a nest for RM 100 which contributes towards the upkeep of the sanctuary. Meanwhile, if you want the best chance of seeing the turtles then you need to visit in the nesting season which runs from July to November.
» Diving and Snorkelling «
Although Lankayan Island is open all year round, the most popular time to visit is during the dry season which is from March to October. After all, this is also the season when the waters are often crystal clear.
For divers, you can see a range of colourful reef pelagic fishes such as the giant gold spec jawfishes, a number of goby species, batfishes, lionfishes and much more. For larger fishes, you can see some species of reef sharks like the black tip, bamboo and coral cat sharks. Thera are also a large variety of macro life including nudibranchs, flatworms, ornate ghostpipefish and more.
For snorkellers, there are many snorkelling sites to explore, especially the north side of the island in the morning and the south side where the jetty is, in the afternoon. With the clear waters, it is possible to snorkel and see coral life even as deep as 10meters below the sea surface.
Sipadan Island also happens to be on the path of migrating whale sharks and these whale sharks usually will pass by the island between March and May. However, spotting them can be difficult but still worth a shot!
» Other Things to Do «
Sandakan is the closest town to the island and it has a variety of attractions to visit, but one of the stand-out activities in the area is the chance to visit Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary. You can visit this rehabilitation and education center as part of a combined package with visiting Lankayan Island Dive Resort. This allows you to see the graceful orangutans, an endangered species, swinging through lush foliage and congregating at the feeding platforms.